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Ice-pick lobotomies were a great medical option

Bizarre things people believed 50 years ago #techradio

  • Psychiatrist Walter Freeman thought he came across a life-changing medical procedure when he did his first “ice-pick” lobotomy in 1946.
  • Freeman figured that depression or mood problems were caused by too much emotion, so he wanted to cut the emotional connection in the brain … literally.
  • Freeman crossed the country, performing lobotomies publicly like a traveling freak show, sometimes doing two people at a time, an ice pick in each hand.
  • Hearing of this new way to calm unruly people, Howard Dully’s step mother brought him in to see Dr. Freeman.
  • The step mother claimed the child had a variety of mood and behavior problems, but in truth, Dully was just an average kid.

People supported some pretty surprising things in the 1960s.

@MarshaCollier: Bizarre things people believed 50 years ago #techradio

Psychiatrist Walter Freeman thought he came across a life-changing medical procedure when he did his first “ice-pick” lobotomy in 1946. “Ice-pick” wasn’t just some cute name for the lobotomy. He used a metal rod just like an ice pick and jammed it through your eye socket into your brain—while you were still awake. Freeman figured that depression or mood problems were caused by too much emotion, so he wanted to cut the emotional connection in the brain … literally. People did tend to be much calmer or changed after the procedure, though some were left paralyzed or mentally disabled.

Freeman crossed the country, performing lobotomies publicly like a traveling freak show, sometimes doing two people at a time, an ice pick in each hand. The treatment caught on because there were so few resources available for the mentally ill at the time. Hearing of this new way to calm unruly people, Howard Dully’s step mother brought him in to see Dr. Freeman. The step mother claimed the child had a variety of mood and behavior problems, but in truth, Dully was just an average kid. The step mother hated him and wanted to do anything to make the child as sedate as possible. So Freeman agreed to perform the lobotomy. Dully was only 12 years old, and they didn’t bother to tell the father that his son would be getting the ice pick special.

But operating on a 12-year-old without full parental consent wasn’t what brought Freeman down. In 1967, he performed a lobotomy on a housewife who later died of a brain hemorrhage. Finally, people figured out that shoving a knife in your brain may not be an advanced medical technique.

Ice-pick lobotomies were a great medical option

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